Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Racist?
Website Jezebel is calling out the men's magazine for using minorities as "props" in photos featuring models in bikinis posing in seven different continents. Sports Illustrated coverJezebel argues that the magazine is perpetuating racial stereotypes by drawing power and class lines between the Westernized models and the "primitive locals" and points to a long history of media using minorities as "extras", citing Nylon magazine, the Free People catalog, British Vogue, and J-Crew.
Depending on where you look, the reaction has been mixed, even among the men who are supposed to be titillated. On Jezebel's website, one male commenter wrote, "Pics of woman with local natives is NOT hot, it's exploitative, so the mission is fail right there. Oh and exploitative. I do not know what they were thinking….fail all around." While another guy wrote, "Some of the examples are ›‹reaching a bit…the one with the boat….why pick that for China? Especially when everything I read about China is how they're an industrial powerhouse." And one helpful reader on Sports Illustrated's Facebook page pointed out, "Technically speaking they were not shot in all seven continents. While Easter Island may belong to Chile, it's a Polynesian island, and not part of the South American continent." Oy.
Shine reached out to Sports Illustrated and Scott Novak, SVP, Communications & Brand responded with "No comment" but added that the man who appears in the Namibia photos "may have done other editorial work before."
"These photos depict people of color as exotic backdrops," David Leonard, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University, tells Yahoo! Shine. "As with beautiful oceans, picturesque trees, people of color are imagined as exotic, as novel, as foreign, as uncivilized and as a point of comparison for the civilized white beauties scantily clad in bathing suits. Beyond functioning as props, as scenery to authenticate their third world adventures, people of color are imagined as servants, as the loyal helpers, as existing for white western pleasure, amusement, and enjoyment."
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